Andreas Cellarius, Harmonia Macrocosmica, 1661

flag France métropolitaine flag Italie flag Royaume-Uni

mardi 30 mars 2010

GMES program and a new contract worth 270 million Euros for the French-Italian company Thales Alenia Space

ESA and Thales Alenia Space have recently signed a contract worth €270 million to build two satellites for Earth Observation, Sentinel-1B and Sentinel-3B, as part of the GMES program(Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The total cost of the GMES program is 2.2 Billion Euros. Led by the European Commission in partnership with ESA, GMES programme will provide a unique tool that allows access to accurate and timely information in order to manage the environment better, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure civil security, for the benefit of Europe and the international community. The success of GMES will be achieved largely through its operational Space Component, which ESA is in the process of realising. This includes the development of a series of five satellites called Sentinels. As prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the design, development, construction and testing of these satellites. Sentinel 1B and 3B are the exact version of Sentinel 1A (see image) and 3A satellites currently under construction, that are to be launched in 2012. The construction of the satellites will take place in Cannes, France, but also in Rome and L’Aquila, in Italy. Reynald Seznec, PDG de Thales Alenia Space, explained that this contract confirms the role that Thales Alenia Space plays in the field of Earth Observation. It underlines the importance of the contribution of the French-Italian company to one of the major European projects in the field of the environment.

Photo (ESA): Luigi Pasquali, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italia (left), Enrico Saggese, President of the Italian space agency (ASI) (middle) and Volker Liebig, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes (right) celebrating the contract awarded to Thales Alenia Space to build the B units for Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-3

dimanche 28 mars 2010

ORFEO: French-Italian cooperation on an Earth observation program

ORFEO (Optical and Radar Federated Earth Observation) is an Earth observation dual satellite system, composed of an optical component, Pleiades and a radar component, Cosmo-SkyMed. In the context of a French-Italian cooperation, the optical system Pleiades is developed by the French Space Agency while the radar system Cosmo-SkyMed is placed under the responsibility of the Italian Space Agency. The Orfeo program is governed by the Treaty of Turin, of February 2007.
The objective of the Pleiades program is to provide a new generation of optical images of the Earth, in order to better respond to European civilian and military needs. This program will allow its civilian users (cartographers, volcanologist, geophysicists, hydrologists, architects, etc) and military users quick access to a very rich array of precise images. The program is led in cooperation with Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Austria. Due to the fact that the program is intended for both civilian and military use, it is financed in part by the Ministry of Defense. The total cost of it is 314 billion Euros. As far as the space industry is concerned, EADS-Astrium deals with the construction of the space segment at their facilities in Toulouse, while Thales Alenia Space develops the optical instrument of Pleiades at the Cannes Space Center.
Cosmo-SkyMed (Constellation of small Satellites for the Mediterranean basin Observation) is an Earth observation dual satellite system, intended, just like Pleiades, for a civilian and military use. Four satellites equipped with radar sensors will provide high resolution images that will be easily accessible, precise and regularly updated. Its application services will contribute significantly to the defense of the territory in areas such as fire, landslides, droughts, floods, pollution, earthquakes and subsidence, management of natural resources in agriculture and forestry, as well as monitoring of urban sprawl. From an industrial point of view, the program was assigned to the French-Italian companies Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio but also to a high number of small and medium sized enterprises.

mercredi 24 février 2010

European space industry and the game of alliances : French, German and Italian supremacy

The European space industry is a strategic niche sector which belongs to the large industrial complex of Aerospace and Defense whose turnover is 133 billion euros (it represents a third of the total turnover of world aerospace activities. Useless to add that aerospace industry, that includes space and defense, represents one of the key high-tech sectors of the European Union. The space industry, whose turnover is about 6 billion euros, is dominated by four industrial holdings: EADS, Thales, Finmeccanica and Safran. They alone generate 70% of the total turnover of the European space industry.
>EADS is the main European group, and the third in the world. Astrium Division is a leading provider of satellites, launchers and space services, has come to play an important part in military and institutional space programs in Europe (Ariane, Galileo).
>Thales Alenia Space is a French-Italian company, a joint venture between Thales and Finmeccanica, created in 2007. Thales Alenia Space is the first constructor of satellites in Europe and a key player in the field of orbital infrastructure.
>Finmeccanica represents the second Italian industrial group, the first in the high technology sector and one of the first five in the world. It is present in the defense, aeronautics and space sector, among others. Telespazio, another joint venture Finmeccanica Thales is a leading provider of satellite services.
>Snecma is a French company of the Safran group, specialized in the construction of engines for the aeronautics and astronautics industry (Airbus, Boeing, Ariane)

We can see that the space industry is highly concentrated, from a geographical point of view – the majority of the activities take place on the territory of only a few member countries – as well as from the point of view of the size of companies – there are few large companies. Except the four major holdings, the space industry counts about another fifty companies that provide equipment for the four groups and about one hundred other firms, most of them independent medium and small-sized enterprises. The industry is spread in all Europe but the most important industrial sites are in France, Germany and Italy.The development of the space industry in Europe finds support in the space agencies (especially ESA and CNES), as they offer important financial support through research and development contracts.
The future of the European space industry depends on a cooperation policy, that is already under way. The truth is that no European country has the financial and economic resources necessary to cope alone with ambitious space projects and face the harsh competition on its own. Another reason for these alliances is represented by the need to make up for the disadvantage on the international market, when confronted to the American industry. Europe has been trying for 30 years to catch up with Americans and it took ten years to develop industrial groups that may parallel the American ones. EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space hold the most important industrial capabilities and commercial units and they have reached a level that allows them to act as real competitors on the international market.

vendredi 19 février 2010

French-Italian Agreements

France and Italy have a common approach in the space sector.
In January 2001, a governmental agreement has been signed in Turin, that refers to the cooperation between the two countries in the filed of Earth Observation.
In June 2006, a new agreement has been reached between the two national agencies in the filed of Telecommunications, that focuses on a feasibility study (phase A) of the project Athena-Fidus. The agreement was immediately followed by a Letter of Intent between the two parties, signed in May 2007. It was agreed that the successive phases of the program be pursued, in order to develop a space infrastructure for high-speed satellite communication. This particular project aims at meeting the needs of the Italian and French Ministry of Defence and the civil institutions of the two countries (security, firemen and police)
In the last years French-Italian relationships have grown stronger, especially due to the signature of a new agreement, dated February 2007, whose objective is to a strengthen the collaboration between the two countries in the space sector. Through this agreement, France and Italy commit to coordinate and harmonise their policies and actions in order to contribute to the implementation of the European space policy. The agreement is stipulated for a 10-year period and after this deadline it will be automatically renewed.
In the filed of Universe Exploration, a Protocol of Intent has been signed between the Italian and the French agencies, in May 2007. It aims at the development of Phase A of the Symbol X program, a French project, for a scientific mission carried out by two satellites flying in formation. Symbol X, operational in the period 2013-2016, will give the opportunity to France and Italy to acquire more knowledge in the field of astrophysics X while their industries will be leaders in satellite formation flying programs.
Finally, in December 2007, a new cooperation agreement was forged, that increased staff mobility between the two agencies.

mardi 16 février 2010

CNES and ASI and the strong skills of France and Italy

The French Space Agency, CNES, is a public administration with industrial and commercial purpose, created in 1961 and placed under the supervision of the French government. Once the space policy is outlined by the French government, the agency is responsible for implementing and coordinating it, with the help of its own teams but also by means of industrial, scientific, national and international partnerships. CNES beneficiates of public financing, under parliamentary control, and has to report on a regular basis to its board of directors as well as to public control bodies. In 2007 its budget was about 1740 million euros, out of which 1383 millions representing state subventions. CNES has about 2400 employees, most of them senior executives and engineers, spread in 4 centres: Evry, Kourou (the French spaceport), Paris (headquarters), Toulouse.
Thanks to the development of Ariane, attributed to the French Agency, France has currently acquired a high level of know-how in the field of launcher propulsion. Toulouse Space Centre displays a particular capability to design and build orbital systems, meaning the satellite platforms, their instruments and operation. In what Earth observation is concerned, the French space industry is a key player in the optical observation systems. Its capabilities in the field of space telecommunications translate in the integration of a great number of satellites, as part of commercial, national, European and international programs.

ASI, Italian Space Agency, created in 1988, is a public national body, responsible for implementing the Italian space policy. The Italian agency depends on the Ministry of Research and receives funding from the Government, which finances the project, development and management of space missions and fixes scientific and practical objectives. ASI manages the space missions on its own or in cooperation with important international space bodies, especially the European Space Agency (Italy is the third contributor, after France and Germany), with NASA and other national agencies. Its headquarters are in Rome and other operational centres are located in Trapani, Matera and Malindi, Kenya. ASI employs about 200 people and its annual budget turns around 800 millions euros.
Italy is fully involved in the development of its capabilities in the field of launchers, with the project management of the launcher Vega, assigned to the Italian industry by the European Space Agency. The Italian industry also provides the oxygen turbopump of the cryogenic engine of Ariane. Italy is also very active in the field of earth observation by means of radars and displays a strong capability to build satellite platforms. After having contributed to various elements of the International Space Station, Italy expresses its interest in the Mars exploration programs.

The relationships between the political authorities and the space industry are carried out through the space agencies. As we have seen, they have the necessary technical skills to forward space programs to political decision takers and the necessary technological and legal competences to deal with the space industry. Together, the agency and the industry represent the productive category of the space sector.

mardi 2 février 2010

The impact of space upon society

The impact of space activities opon society and human mankind in general will only increase. In a 34 year span (1957-1991) we have engaged in global communication, we have witnessed the first voyages on other planets and have seen the first steps on the moon. In the last 10 years a new era of space exploration has emerged, with images of stars and galaxies, but also with a strong and necessary international cooperation and a new perspective on our own planet. Space technologies have become such an important part of our daily lives that modern society can not do without anymore. Space may serve many objectives and policies that have a direct impact on our lives: transport and mobility, communication, environment, industrial competitiveness, agriculture, education, civil protection, defence and security
As a matter of fact, the International Academy of Astronautics and the European Space Agency have worked together on a large-scale project published in 2005 that explains the positive and beneficial impact of space activities on societies and communities across the world, form the point of view of their leaders in all fields.

A blog dedicated to European space activities
The hereby blog will try to keep the record of undergoing projects in the space field and their impact, with a special focus on the French-Italian cooperation in the sector : common projects, challenges and strategies, objectives, statistics and analysis.